I was just minding my business, pulling some unwanted weeds at the edge of the prairie garden, when I felt a tap at the side of my head. I know what makes that tap and what it means. It means Iím too close to a nest of bees and one of them let me know by flying into me. Itís the beeís way of warning me to get out of there or else.
Iíve learned to respect the beeís angry message, so I immediately took three steps backwards. It must have been the wrong direction, though, because I felt a sharp sting on the back of my right arm, then another on my left forearm, and then a real stinger on the back of my neck. By then I was hastily moving to the open yard and swinging my arms over my head. They were some kind of small ground bees and one of them wouldnít leave me alone.
I snapped off the stem of a phlox and swung it around my head as I ran toward the house. The clever little bee wouldnít give up the chase and I didnít get rid of him until the screen door slammed behind me. I had just been driven one hundred yards to the house by an insect so small that I could barely see him. Itís hardly the first time I came across a nest of ground-nesting bees and it probably wonít be the last. Iím no stranger to bee stings but I canít ever remember one who chased me so far with such determination.
I was out for a walk with the camera just before dark last night when I heard a bird song that I didnít recognize. My curiosity always has me searching for the bird that makes the song so I walked over under the trees and peered up where I thought the sound was coming from. I could have sworn the single note song was coming from above me then it definitely sounded closer to the ground. Then I heard it up in the trees again and then I thought the bird song came from behind me. I was getting kind of frustrated because the sound was moving all around me, yet I didnít see a bird move from place to place.
Thatís when I looked down at my feet and spotted a small bird in the tall grass. A young bird that was just starting to get his pinfeathers opened his yellow mouth wide when I bent down to see him. I couldnít tell what kind of bird he was, because he was mostly featherless skin with no markings. I looked around for the nest he may have fallen from but couldnít find one. I thought maybe one of his parents might show up and give me a clue to who he was, but they werenít around. I was amazed at how this tiny bird, less than a week old, could throw his voice around like that. He had me walking in circles trying to find him when he was right at my feet all along.
This little guy was hungry. It would be dark soon with a good chance of rain that night. I didnít like his chances of making it through the night, so I made a nest for him in the house. He eagerly ate four crickets, two small grasshoppers and an earthworm. I fed him again because he was hungry again in twenty minutes then he slept through the night. His begging calls started at sun up and I fed him every 20 minutes throughout the day. Weíll take it one day at a time and hopefully all will go well.
These August mornings are beautiful. The heavy, damp air and the lingering fog in the river valley makes for my favorite time of the day. A pretty doe and her two spotted fawns cross the road near the house. They are headed for a peaceful place to spend the day after foraging for food the night before. Iím a little surprised at how small the fawns are. Most of them Iíve been seeing are three-quarters grown and their spots have nearly faded away. It was good to see how clean and shiny the doeís coat was. They all looked healthy and happy.
Iíve been finding shed feathers here and there that were molted by various birds. The small feathers, like those found on the breast, are harder to spot and more challenging to identify. The larger flight feathers are the long wing or tail feathers, and these are more noticeable and easier to recognize. The wild birds molt all their feathers in the summer. One at a time, the old worn out feathers are replaced with new, healthy, strong feathers. The process takes several weeks and, with new feathers, the bird will have a better chance of surviving the coming year. Today I found a nice tail feather from a shiny black crow and, not far away, a wing feather from a blue jay. They were both just lying on the top of the short grass as though they had just floated down from the sky. I thought it interesting that both feathers were from the same family of birds known as Corvidae (crows and jays).
I found another two feathers on the north side of the house, a tail feather from a cardinal and a wing feather from a Rose-breasted grosbeak. Both of these birds are thick-beaked seed-eaters who are often seen together at the bird feeders. Itís like finding a little treasure when I spot a molted feather on the ground. Itís fun to figure out which feather came from which bird.
I watched a mason wasp with a taste for bee balm fly from flower to flower like a honey bee. Thereís so much to see in August as Nature produces the ultimate sights of summer. Soon the first subtle signs of autumn will be here, so now is the time to get outside and take it all in.
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